Monday, July 16, 2018

All Lady July - "The Butterfly Garden" by Dot Hutchison

This book had been on my TBR for awhile, but my local libraries didn't have it. Until suddenly it appeared one day on the large print...but whatever it is fine. I felt like a super speedy reader flipping those pages so fast.

We are brought into the story technically at the end. A young girl is sitting in a police station interrogation room telling what seems to be an improbable story -  a rich, respected man has a harem of kidnapped girls (literally girls, they run young) in a beautiful garden on his property. As she describes their lives to the detectives they get more baffled. Can they trust this girl? She's not very forthcoming about her life before hand. She won't even tell them her name. (The kidnapper renamed them all, because of course). The women are basically kept as pets by this man and his sadistic, terrifying oldest son. But is there any hope for their escape?

What drew me to this book was the interesting premise. There were a lot of interesting details and the descriptions were good. I always get a little nervous when there are huge casts of characters in a book (especially if they share a lot of common traits, like I don't know, are all captive young women) but the writing made it as such that it was easy enough to keep most of them straight. I thought that the descriptions of the characters were good as well - they all seemed like real people, even though they were victims of this crime they all had flaws and realistic personalities. It's not like they were saints because this bad thing happened to them.

 What kind of was disappointing to me about this book was the end. I felt like we were chugging along, feeling pretty good about it and then in like, the last 12-15 pages they try to throw in one last twist. It feels pretty forced and honestly I'm still a little bit confused about it. So I'm just going to pretend it didn't happen, that's normal right? There's also a pseudo love story that sometimes makes sense and then sometimes just feels real ick. Apparently this book is part of a series but it follows the police detectives instead of the girls. I feel like that's a little lame, so I don't think I'll pursue the rest of them.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

All Lady Book Review - "Poseidon's Steed: The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality" by Helen Scales, PhD

Is there a more perfect book for All Lady July then a nonfiction written by a female scientist about an animal that DOESN'T give birth to their young? This one ticked all the boxes I didn't even know I needed for ALJ.

I have had more conversations about seahorse mating rituals in the past month then I probably will in my whole life. 

Here are some of my favorite things that I learned in this book:

- Seahorses are notoriously hard to categorize because so many of them can change how they look at will. Like, people will think they discover a new species and then they realize "Nope, he's the same as this guy over there but this guy just made himself green. Not a new species!" So that can be incredibly frustrating to the people who study them!

- There's a region in your brain called your hippocampus (it's important for memory!) that is seahorse shaped. In Greek, hippos means horse and kampos means sea monster. You have a sea monster in your brain, don't be alarmed!

-Seahorses actually make a fair amount of noises and most of them are made by rubbing the back of the skull on a little protrusion on their neck. Scientists literally just figured this out using very high speed cameras.

- Seahorses are used in all kinds of ancient health/healing recipes. Even a natural remedy to perk up a man's lacking libido. Apparently.

-Want to see a male seahorse give birth? I gotchu, fam.

I really liked this book. I learned a lot. It was a fast read. It sparked a lot of interesting conversations.


Monday, July 9, 2018

All Lady July - Shop til you drop!

Want to spend some cash on some great items that celebrate female writers/books/characters? I got you. Click on the picture to get to where you can purchase!

Jane Eyre

Friday, July 6, 2018

ALL LADY JULY 2018- Book review: "It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History" by Jennifer Wright

Oh did it ever!

This book wouldn't be my usual fare, but the author wrote another book I read recently about plagues and the heroes who fought them and her writing style was so fun and entertaining I knew I had to see what else she had written. So here we are! I knew I was in for a treat when Henry the 8th didn't look like the most insane person in this book. I mean, he's pretty bad when it comes to breakups (and by breakups we mean let's murder current wife and get us a new one that can give us a boy child!)

I'm not going to go into all of the couple but here's a few random highlights:

-Oscar Wilde has a chapter with Lord Alfred Douglas, if you know 2 things about Oscar Wilde it's probably that he is super quotable and witty and that he gay. A thing that I learned in this book was that Lord Alfred Douglas had an ancestor who was a cannibal. She was caught roasting a servant on a spit. (Just because you have money doesn't mean you have mental stability or class, amirite?) Also, Lord Alfred Douglas was NOT a good boyfriend.

-Did you know that when people use the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" they are talking about Edith Wharton's family? Super duper rich. Also, literally no one would explain to her what sex was so she thought on her wedding night her husband would perform some kind of concert. Yeah. Money apparently won't buy you sex education either. That part kind of broke my heart a little. She has a happier ending then most though.

- Duckys is 16th century slang for breasts, so feel free to use that one at the bar

- Lord Byron was just the worst in so many ways. He ghosted a woman he said he was going to marry and she sent him bloody locks of her pubic hair. Feel free to NOT use that one at the bar.

- There was a Russian ruler named Anna Ivanovna and she was apparently one of Russia's worst rulers (which is saying something because, OH LORD there have been some doozies. I mean it's an old country so law of averages but yikes.) I can't wait to learn more about her. Hopefully my local reference librarians can dig me up some books about her.

This was a quick, fun book that had me laughing and made me so glad that Henry the 8th never saw the dawn of online dating.


Friday, June 29, 2018

Announcement - All Lady July 2018!

Hi everyone!

So excited to share that it is that time of year again, All Lady July!

A time on the blog where we celebrate all things books and ladies!

There will be fun lists, things to blow your paycheck on, guest bloggers,  and obviously book reviews!

I am out of town on vacation for the first bit of July (coming atchu Houston and Austin, please don't melt me into a puddle before I get to see the Space Center!) so we will hit the ground running on the 6th when I get back (so, slightly abbreviated All Lady July!

We hope to see you around the blog!


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book review: "Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog and the Strangling of a City" by Kate Winkler Dawson

I'd heard from several other book bloggers who enjoy nonfiction like I do rave about this book, so I decided to pick it up for myself. It was okay. I learned a lot but I didn't find myself rushing through whatever I was doing to get back to this book. There are two stories told in parallel, the fact that there is a terrible fog that is metaphorically strangling London and a serial killer who is literally strangling people in London. 

It was weird, but it seemed like all of the things that I liked the most about this book were little throw away sentences, not things that were part of the big overarching story. Like, a prayer starts each parliament meeting and instead of the parliament members kneeling to pray they turn and face a wall, which is because 400 years ago they were all wearing swords and that makes kneeling hard and you know, potentially dangerous.

So this fog, it was bad. It was if you were standing on your doorstep you couldn't see the sidewalk bad. It was so bad they had to shut down the subway bad. It was so bad that over the course of 5 days it killed 12,000 people. (Mostly the very old, the very young, or people with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Like, say, men who had encounters in the first world war with mustard gas.)

I found the serial killer bit less compelling. He was creepy and bad and killed a woman and her baby and his wife and several others.

I almost think that these would have been better as two separate books. Or maybe as the same book but the stories given less equal footing like they were here.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Book review: "The Shadow of the Sun" by Ryszard Kapuscinski

This book was unending in how interesting it was and how incredibly readable and approachable it is. If you were like me and thought "I should know more about African history, I wonder what I can read that won't be 600 pages and overly specific to a time period/place/topic" I can't recommend this book fast enough. I can't recommend this book fast enough, period. The author is obviously a journalist, his writing is simple and high impact and I loved it. (He talks about crossings were sometimes just a burned out shack and a bullet riddled sign and said - "The kinds of borders for which blood is spilled were still to come into being". He would get much scarier crossings later in this time there).

So the author of this book is a Polish journalist who is sent by his Polish newspaper to chase stories all over Africa in 1957. This is a huge deal because no Polish newspaper has ever done this before and he really wanted to succeed.

An interesting thing about timing, in the late 50s that's when a lot of the white colonial powers - mainly Britain- were finally exiting the continent and a lot of folks were very bitter that their departure had taken so long. This rang true with our Polish author who tried to tell people that "You were colonized? We, Poles, were also! For 130 years we were the colony of three foreign powers, all of them white!" But no one he spoke to believed him.

He focuses on his interaction with people mostly, but I learned some about animals too. Especially what happens to male lions after the age of about 20 - they get a little slower, drop out of their packs and eventually starts to hunt and eat humans since we are (surprise surprise) easier to catch then gazelles. They are desperate, which makes them even more terrifying than normal lions.

He talks about witnessing violent coups and government takeovers and marvels at how life resumes to normal in a short-ish period of time. People have grown used to it. (In regards to a coup in Nigeria in 1966- "in a country with a surface area 3 times that of Poland, inhabited by 56 million people, the coup was executed by an army numbering barely 8,000 soldiers").  He talks about the places in Africa where the slave traders landed and took off with their human cargo and how those places still felt like cursed, haunted places all of those years later. He talks about Idi Amin in one chapter, who just holds a weird fascination for me. He was ruthless and terrifying and his secret police rained terror down on people....annnnnnnd he also like to coordinate his outfits to the car he was driving that day. Not that that should surprise me, dictators are VAIN AS HELL.

Towards the end of his time in Africa, the 80s, a new scourge was making it's way across the country, not a vain dictator, not a child soldier army, not colonial powers from abroad....AIDS.